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The Science of Breading Food

The Science of Breading Food

Many culinary schools teach that breading is an easy way to better a dish, but it needs to be perfect: if not it will actually ruin the food.

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Think of grilled chicken for a second. A bit sad, isn't it? How about fried with a delicious crusty breading that smells amazing? Think the same with pork chops: already very tasty, but the breading gives it an over the top fragrance. Many culinary schools (American and Neapolitan for example) teach that breading is an easy way to better a dish. It needs to be perfect, if not it will actually ruin the food. How do you make perfect breading? First we need to define the concept: the crust needs to be thick, crusty, have a caramelized scent and not to be too dark.

You might think it's all about the outside, the actual breading. Instead, what makes a breading perfect is actually the invisible part, the closest layer to the meat. If it doesn't stick properly, the breading will fall apart while cooking, and break from the humidity. A total disaster! To avoid this, the surface of the meat mustn’t be too humid: use kitchen paper to soak extra fluids. Don't use any dressings, don't use salt and pepper: the crust will give it the right amount of saltiness or spice. Now you are ready to proceed with the breading.

There are many ways to do it, but the best is three layers. Drip the meat in flour. You will have a base and can add the other ingredients while taking out all residues of water. For better results use starch instead of flour: it sticks better. Let it sit for a few minutes and beat the eggs on the side. The proteins of the egg will glue themselves to the starch. It's important to do this with your eggs at room temperature. If you've just taken out the eggs from the fridge, it won't work as well. When the liquid is ready drip the meat in it for a few seconds. Be careful: a few seconds because you don't want to wash out the starch. Last step is about the bread, the actual and crucial breading technique. Some people grate the bread, if you want to cook like a chef, don't do it. Stale bread is the best, at least three days old, and you should crumble it carefully. Use a mixer and it will give you an homogenous consistency. Put it in a plate and roll the pieces of meat in it. You will see that the bread will stick to the meat fairly quick.

At this stage, let your meat rest for five minutes to allow time for the proteins of the eggs to react. Some people will go over a second time with the breading, usually with spicy crumbles to obtain a thick crust, but not everyone likes it this way. It also implies being more careful during the cooking stage and a thicker crust has a greater chance of breaking apart. I suggest you stick with one layer, you can add spices if you like. If you want to go with two, make sure your first layer is very thin and the second one is more uneven.

You are ready to fry. Another crucial stage. Always use butter only. You don't need a lot, just enough for both sides. In alternative you can use a vegetable frying oil. There is no indicated time: fry until it browns. If you don't have much experience, fry one side for a few minutes and then the other, and repeat. The result will be delicious! Want to learn another trick? Learn from a guru? Or the best chef? When you beat the eggs add a tablespoon of oil for each egg. Your liquid will be lighter and it will stick better to the starch. About starch: don't overdo it! You only need a very thin layer!

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